The Next Adventure: The NuPrime Audio IDA-16 Digital Integrated Amp


January 07, 2015

I'm Mike, and I am a friend and customer of SONIC UNITY. Perhaps it is now a matter of public record that I am one of the very first people in North America, to purchase a NuPrime IDA-16 digital integrated amplifier. I thought it might be informative to explain to you how this came to be. It will be a feeble attempt to truthfully outline how ‘mrvinyl’ as I am known 'on-line', became a convert to a great little new component that has forever changed the way I listen to music.

Before I do that however, I would like to share with you a brief summary of my audio belief system, as it existed before the NuPrime IDA-16 arrived.

First and foremost, I am a lover of all things analog. A well designed turntable, is to me, a thing of utter beauty. It represents an anachronistic device from a time long past. My current turntable is a thing of beauty. It comes from Czechoslovakia and sports a magnetic bearing, a 3 inch thick acrylic platter, and a gorgeous carbon fibre tonearm. As the queen of the ball, she sits in a place of prominence in our family living room.

Secondly, I am a lover of all things tube related. I quite literally have hundreds of tubes stashed all over the house. I have been known to spend an entire day ‘testing’ tubes. Although I would much rather be listening to music, I felt tubes added a certain coloration to the sounds that was enjoyable. Like a guitarist searching for just the right 'tone', a magic tube would make the music come to life. 

In my own system, I used to employ tubes at pretty well every critical junction point. For amplification, my Wyetech Onyx mono amplifiers, had been the cornerstone of my system for over seven years. They provided single ended triode magic with a minuscule 13 Watts of power. Hooked up to the speakers, the sound was sublime. It was pure seduction. It offered vocals to die for. While great for certain types of music, particularly small ensemble acoustic jazz the system had some limitations which I decided to live with. Combined with my tube preamplifier and tube phono stage this system generated thousands of hours of listening pleasure. It was a classic tube based audio system with a great turntable.

What’s not to like? Comments from visitors to the house were positive and always enthusiastic about the sound quality. Still, I had my doubts. These doubts led me to the third cornerstone of my audio belief system. Cables. Ah yes, wires cables and power conditioning. Somewhere along my musical journey I became a practitioner of what can only be called the ‘dark arts’ whereby expensive power cords and speaker wires became an essential part of the audio system building process. I was a firm believer that a well constructed audio system, comprised of separate components, with each component performing its’ own audio task to perfection, must be connected to the wall socket and to each other with audiophile grade cables to properly perform. My listening experience and research had led me to conclude that proper cabling was a critical part of the audio equation and that failure to ‘wire up’ the system with appropriate and expensive cables would result in a systematic failure of massive proportions. It would be akin to listening to the worlds best jazz band perform in a subway station. You had to get everything just right otherwise it would not sound as good as it could.

To make a long story short, the cabling did make a difference in the sound. Of course it also came with a fairly hefty price tag! Over the years, friends would drop by and also being cable junkies, they would bring over another cable offering to try in my system. Some we liked an some we didn’t. After multiple cable swaps the only conclusion I could reach was that cabling would in fact, alter the sound of the audio components. It’s important to note that I didn’t say ‘make the sound better’ - only ‘different’. One day, Rick made what I thought was an unusual comment - "Does it matter?" I thought it did, but maybe 'different' wasn't better.

So now we finally arrive at the story of the NuPrime IDA-16 digital integrated amplifier. Rick had purchased one back in November of 2014. Apparently, it's part of a new wave of extreme digital audio components incorporating a DAC, a preamp and a class D amplifier all in one chassis. According to Rick, it would allow me to set up a computer based audio system that would out perform any CD player and analog system. Further, the preamp and class D amp sections were leading edge technology that would challenge my thinking regarding the superiority of separate components (particularly tube components) and their associated cables. Those were pretty bold words.

So Rick loaned me the NuPrime IDA-16 and he helped hook up my Apple MacBook Pro to an external hard drive. Within five minutes we were up and running. In the blink of an eye I was so 21st century! The digital audio universe had arrived.

Over the next few days I became acquainted with the many virtues and the clean look of the NuPrime IDA-16 sitting on my now largely empty stereo rack. The NuPrime IDA-16 replaced four rather large, rather expensive, and bulky audio components. It also eliminated so many cables. This made my wife Barb very happy. “I love the look and the sound is great,” she enthused one evening. She was right. How can this be? This small component had just replaced so many statement components I had learned about through The Absolute Sound.

After more than a few emails to Rick, it is decided that I am ready for the next step in the digital revolution. It includes measuring the living room using a microphone and running a series of test tones to determine how the room interacts with my speakers. When this is completed the Amarra software program he had installed created a filter that fixed most of the room / speaker interaction problems. Very modern thinking this was to use a computer to solve a fundamental problem with audio systems that typically goes uncorrected.

Within thirty minutes of his next visit the room has been tested and the software (filter) had been created. We sat down to listen and I can tell by the smile on Rick's face that this is his moment. I really did not know what to expect. Rick said, “Please put on something you know well.” I comply and we are soon listening to the Eddie Higgins Quintet (Venus Records). It quickly becomes apparent that the software correction has made a very dramatic and noticeable improvement in the clarity of the music. Everything seemed more natural with a richer tone. It was now very easy to hear the differences between the two tenor saxes used in the group (Ken Peplowski and Scott Hamilton). After another hour of listening ti was obvious that room correction was the proverbial ‘ace up the sleeve’ in Ricks’ audio arsenal. Game over. There is simply no going back.

Now, just in case you were wondering, I have not totally lost my tube fetish, or love of all thing analog and the NuPrime IDA-16 allows me to continue to enjoy both tubes and vinyl although with far fewer tubes to contribute tone to the system). You see, the NuPrime IDA-16 makes this possible through its one analog audio input for the hookup of, you guessed it... a tube phono stage.

You see, I’m not quite ready to part ways with the ‘queen of the ball’ - my Czechoslovakian black beauty. It may see a little less action in the future, but for now, her place in our home is still important to me. I can’t let vinyl quietly disappear into the night just yet. It's fun! I’ve always enjoyed playing records and it’s a part of my history as well as a part of my life. Vinyl is important to me however, it's not as important as the quality of the sound and this new digital component and my computer playing high-resolution master files simply sounds better.

Well there you have it. A little story about how the NuPrime Audio IDA-16 became a part of our living room where it plays great music, non-stop, every day for our enjoyment. It offers fantastic sound and the new digital technology is far superior to the sound of the old equipment. It also let's me get right into the music and simply enjoy it. No more hassle with old things that don't sound good anymore and take up precious time doing things like testing tubes.

It has changed the way I think and approach audio forever. There is no going back.

For more information on the NuPrime IDA 16 Digital Integrated Amplifier please seeNuPrime IDA-16

- MIKE ROWE


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